Turn an "oh" at salad into "Oh, wow" with a little imagination and not much effort.
Even the best-dressed leaves can benefit from a sprinkling of nuts or seeds. Just add them right before serving so they stay nice and crunchy.
Greens served naked or barely dressed in a splash of citrus and olive oil will gain greater appeal with a shake of dried fruit or a generous serving of fresh fruit.
Meat is a great salad topper, but don't overlook beans, wheat germ, granola and canned tuna. Then there's diced or shaved cheese and green or black olives, marinated or stuffed.
Dry ramen noodles sautéed in butter and sprinkled with the accompanying spice package are a nice change from croutons.
Snipped herbs -- chives, mint, parsley, dill come to mind -- add bold notes. Leftover rice or lentilscan be added with abandon.
Need more ideas? Pile on fresh or grilled vegetables. If going with fresh vegetables, shredding, chopping, slicing and shaving will all add to the texture of the finished salad.
Carrot and Citrus Salad
Serves 3 to 4
The recipe calls for grapefruits and pistachios, but an abundance of oranges and raisins in the pantry also made a salad that was delicious. If peppery watercress isn’t available, try spinach. Recipe from “Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes” by Jane Loxwell.
⅓ cup shelled pistachios
2 grapefruits, segmented
1 large handful watercress
2 carrots, shaved on mandoline, placed in ice water
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, picked and roughly torn or chopped
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Small squeeze of agave nectar
Pinch of flaky salt, such as Pinch Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small dry skillet over medium low heat, toast the pistachios until evenly browned, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine grapefruits, watercress, carrots and cilantro in a bowl and toss gently. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. When ready to serve, add nuts and dressing to the salad. Season to taste.
Marinated Cucumber and Chili Salad
Serves 2 to 3
Habaneros are plentiful at Latino markets, but can be difficult to find at some supermarkets. Substitute another spicy pepper. The longer the cucumbers marinate, the more tart the salad. Recipe from “Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes” by Jane Loxwell.
1 cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and finely chopped
½ habanero, seeded, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Squeeze of agave nectar
Juice of 1 lemon
Flaky sea salt, black pepper
Place the cucumber, habanero and onion in a glass bowl. Toss with olive oil, agave nectar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate from 1 hour to up to a day before serving.
Mixed Greens and Strawberry Salad
Recipe from “The Artist, the Cook and the Gardener: Recipes Inspired by Painting and the Garden,” by Maryjo Koch.
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, and 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 small head butter lettuce, washed, chilled
3 to 4 ounces mixed baby lettuces, washed, chilled
2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, sliced
¼ cup slivered almonds
Sea salt, black pepper
In bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and orange juice concentrate. Add the marmalade and whisk again until combined. Refrigerate.
Reserve 4 large leaves for plating. Tear remaining leaves into bite-size pieces. Spoon 1 tablespoon of dressing into the center of each of 4 serving plates. Place a whole large leaf of butter lettuce off-center on the plate. Scatter a handful of torn lettuce and a handful of baby greens over the entire plate. Scatter ½ cup sliced strawberries and 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds over the greens.
Drizzle each salad with additional tablespoon dressing and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Green Salad With Corn, Peppers and Smoky Red Pepper Dressing
Serves 4 to 8; dressing makes 1 cup
Substituting half a grilled red pepper, with skin removed, and a small handful of basil produced an especially delicious dressing. Recipe from “Heather Christo’s Generous Table: Easy and Elegant Recipes Through the Seasons.”
¼ cup olive oil
⅛ cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 ounces roasted red peppers (packed in water, drained)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 peeled garlic clove
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
8 cups green lettuce, in bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 shallot, small diced
In a blender, combine the olive oil, vinegar, roasted peppers, cilantro, garlic, paprika and salt. Purée until the dressing is smooth. Pour into airtight container and refrigerate for up to five days. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, corn, red and yellow peppers and shallot and toss to combine. Add ½ cup dressing and gently toss everything to coat. Serve immediately.